Here at school, “dynasty” is a word that is commonly used to describe the Eagle Rugby program.
Winning state championships in four of the last five years, dynasty is an appropriate title to describe a program that has been so successful so fast. The Eagles consistently rank in the top ten in the nation each year; last year’s squad finished fifth in the nation. The program also boasts an overall winning percentage of .831 over the last four years.
With many returning rugby stars stepping back onto the field this year and already having experience back-to-back state championships, one thing comes to mind: three-peat.
“A three-peat is the ultimate goal this year,” senior Pearson Garnett said. “It is something that’s never been done before in the state.”
Winning a state championship may not be an easy task this year. This season two new schools enter the same league as the Eagles. The Woodlands and Katy, two dominating Greater Houston-Area football schools, are entering the league for their first season as a varsity sport. The transition in the rules from football to rugby may be difficult for both schools. Having the experience the Eagles do should provide an advantage.
And it is no secret that the Eagles have experience. Seniors Parker White, Alex Snyder, Reed Hogan, Keegan Mills, Javier Gonzales, Pearson Garnett, Alejandro Chavez and Eduardo Caballero are all returning starters. Other key returning players are senior Chris De Ayala and junior Kurt Hanson.
Leadership is another thing the Eagles are not worried about this season.
The Eagles lost valuable leaders in Danny Amsler, Roderick Blouin and Paul de Ayala. But with so many key players from last year’s state championship team returning, there is bound to be more than one leader be a key contributor to this year’s team.
“Captain Keegan Mills, vice captain Alejandro Chavez and Parker White are going to be big players for us this year. But what is really important this year is the team chemistry. Everyone has a job and does it well.”
-Brett Mills, Head Rugby Coach
The Eagles were dealt a serious blow during football season when senior Calvin Shaw, a big impact player on the field, broke his collarbone in a game against Huffman-Hargrave. The injury Shaw suffered caused him to make the difficult decision to forego this rugby season in hopes of playing football in college next year.
“His injury was a huge loss,” Mills said. “He was a huge contributor and it is something that we will have to try to overcome.”
“I wish the team the best in all their games, tournaments and playoffs,” Shaw said. “I will be at each game to cheer the ruby team to another successful year.”
What has made the rugby program so successful over the last number of years is the participation and growing interest for the sport among the students.
“We’ve developed a culture here at the school,” Mills said. “We offer a contact sport in the spring that is very successful and when we began touring in 2002, our number of players really skyrocketed.”
Some big games the Eagles are looking forward to include their first match against Woodlands, which will be played at the new BBVA Compass Stadium, as well as the tournament they play in North Carolina this spring break.
“I’m really excited for the tournament in North Carolina,” Garnett said. “All the best teams are going to be there and it will be a great opportunity to showcase our talents.”
And while all these events be season highlights, the Eagles have one ultimate goal that trumps all.
“The teamwork between everyone is what allows us to be so successful,” Chavez said. “It will be special for us [to win a state championship] because winning three in-a-row for rugby has never been achieved in the state.”